Brawny is one of those guys who’s just genuinely nice. He just has this unique vibe about him; warm and inviting, rough around the edges and cool as hell. His shop is exactly how you’d imagine it to be. Eclectic tunes were pumping the entire time from a small speaker on a shelf. As soon as I arrived, I had to take 10 minutes to just look around and see what kind of possibilities there were to shoot. I was pretty damn excited to be there.
I started off simple using a single strobe while he tinkered away on a bike. I was adjusting my exposure for the shop while trying to collect ideas. Brawny’s style is as simple as it gets; T-shirts and trucker hats are standard. As I watched him put on a set of mirrors, his attention to detail was like a laser. I thought he was moving the way he was for the camera but it became clear that he was hyper focused as if I wasn’t even there.
Once he took me outside to see the other garage and I saw that there was another smaller door opening inside the big door. I knew exactly what my first setup would be. Simply put, doorways make great light. I set up a strobe inside to provide a blue-gelled rim light and got to work. Being a guy who owned a motorcycle once for a year (rode it like 10 times) , I hesitated to add any additional flair or suggestions that might flavor the shot outside of Brawny’s character. I asked him to grab a tool and get comfortable.
As I poked around the shop a little bit more, one particular motorcycle caught my eye. It was an aggressive looking burgundy bike on stand. When I asked him about it, his eyes lit up as he told me that it was a bike he built for himself. As you can imagine, someone who build custom bikes for others probably has a badass bike of their own, Brawny was no exception.
For this particular shot, I really struggled to show the bike without it being too distracting. I had a small strobe on camera right with a blue gel for the bike and a warm gelled and gridded strobe to the left for Brawny. With so much shiny metal in the frame, I had to think quick. As I fired off shots trying to make it work, I realized the immense pride and ownership that he felt with this particular bike. His hands were so comfortable on the curves as if he was holding a woman. You can see the love in his eyes. This expression alone was enough to carry the photo beyond any outside distractions.
When I asked him about it, his eyes lit up as he told me that it was a bike he built for himself.
For the last setup, Brawny suggested that head outside with another bike to get some riding shots. As he donned a beautiful black leather jacket, I felt bad about how hot it was. We tried a few angles having him emerge from the garage into the light but in the end, we switched places shooting into the light from inside. He was bathed in gorgeous sunlight with a reflector on camera right. I don’t usually use the silver side but in this particular case, it felt right. I love how the the light is gleaming off him and the bike in a beautiful dance of contrast with the shadows. He looks almost legendary.
If you want to know more about Brawny, check out his custom bikes at Brawnybuilt.com. You can also see more of his work through The Speed Merchant, which he co-owns. He’s built bikes for Born Free and was recently featured in Harley Davidson video series “Tracking”.